Drawn That Way

Lidija Haas · Amanda Knox

Four months after Amanda Knox was acquitted of murdering Meredith Kercher, HarperCollins has paid her several million dollars for her memoirs. We will soon be able, we're told, to hear ‘her side of the story’ – except that her side, an account of the ‘nightmarish ordeal that placed her at the centre of a media storm’, to be told with the help of a ‘collaborator’, already sounds a little familiar.

Meanwhile, Knox’s ex-boyfriend and co-accused, Raffaele Sollecito, has acquired his own ghostwriter, who is apparently promising to deliver ‘a love story, a harrowing description of an innocent young man in prison, a full-blooded Italian family drama, and a legal thriller’. National stereotypes have thrived in the coverage of the case: we’ve heard several times about Knox’s marathon interrogation by police who’d been ‘trained to break the mafia’. The Knox book doesn’t sound quite so juicy – her publishers anticipate something ‘very thoughtful, reflective and serious’ – but then it doesn’t need to. Amanda Knox comes late to her own story: the overwriting has been more than taken care of by the international media.

During the years Knox spent locked up in Perugia, her image – in court, on the news, in the tabloids, broadsheets, numerous books and even a TV movie – was curiously mobile. Her youth and wholesome good looks played both for and against her in the press, and as the case grew murkier, the portrayal of Knox only grew less nuanced. She’s always one thing or the other, a modern incarnation of Wanda from Venus in Furs or an American Amèlie, a demon or a martyr: some of her supporters wore white wristbands like the ones for the ‘Make Poverty History’ campaign; one of the their websites displayed a holy spirit dove next to her picture.

Even Sollecito’s lawyer, asking the appeal court to ignore the misrepresentations of Knox, felt moved to compare her to Jessica Rabbit: not a femme fatale, but ‘faithful and loving’; not bad, just ‘drawn that way’. Every scrap of information about her could be read two ways: the dry-eyed woman kissing and turning cartwheels after her friend’s murder or the one in shock, seeking comfort from her boyfriend and trying to calm herself with yoga exercises; known as ‘Foxy’ either because of her promiscuity or her soccer skills as an eight-year-old.

When Hayden Panettiere played Knox, then still awaiting appeal, in a Lifetime movie, she was quoted as saying: ‘This wasn’t a dark, angry girl. She was a young girl with dreams and aspirations. I don’t think guilty or innocent takes away from that’ – which sounds bizarre even by the standards of Hollywood PR gush but may be true as far as the movie goes (I haven’t seen it). Selling books is another matter, however. One of the publishers who stayed out of the bidding for Knox’s book said it was a ‘huge gamble’ because ‘it’s not like she has been exonerated in a clear and definitive way.’ Italian prosecutors have launched an appeal against the acquittal.

For Knox's publisher, the court of American public opinion – convinced of Knox's innocence – probably matters more than the Court of Cassation in Rome. In 2006, HarperCollins were forced at the last minute to pull O.J. Simpson’s memoirish, novelish If I Did It. ‘I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project,’ Rupert Murdoch said. Simpson, whose ghostwriter had been a witness at the original trial, later lost the rights to his book to the Goldman family (he still owes them more than $30 million). They released it with a cover on which the shrunken ‘if’ is all but invisible inside the first letter of ‘I DID IT’.

Regardless of whether Knox should make money from all this (and it’s not clear she’ll make much, once she’s paid off the debts incurred to cover her legal fees), the book project sounds strangely uncompelling. You hardly need to read HarperCollins’s advance blurb describing ‘how she used her inner strength and strong family ties to cope with the most challenging time of her young life’ to suspect that Knox’s account of herself and of events will be unexceptionable and uncontradictory, that she will have learnt her lesson and won’t express mixed feelings.

The 20-year-old Knox, who didn’t realise that she should cry, smile, kiss, do yoga and buy underwear only in the right ways and at the right times, must be long gone. I suspect that Knox might have written a more surprising memoir than this one will, but then she wouldn’t have been asked. The ongoing media creation of Amanda Knox, which has obscured the memory of Meredith Kercher, seems likely to end with a story that few will disapprove of, and few will want to read.


  • 21 February 2012 at 7:52pm
    JanetS says:
    I think Amanda's book will be a great read! There is a much bigger story here than the world believes. I hope Amanda draws attention to that. I'm looking forward to it.

  • 22 February 2012 at 5:51am
    drdavidanderson says:
    Lidija Haas, you need to realise that everything we were told in the media about Amanda Knox was fed to them by a highly pathological police and prosecutorial system. That system set about constructing evidence against these two (well, primarily Amanda, but Raffaele had to go down too) from the very beginning. It is called targeted aggression, and is a feature unique to psychopaths, and systems that share their characteristics. The importance of Amanda and Raffaele's books will be that they should make the rest of us examine very carefully a grossly faulted judicial system, which applies not just in Italy but throughout the 'civilised' world. At least Italy, has abolished the death penalty, and so is one judicial obscenity less than the USA.

    You refer to 'obscuring the memory of Meredith Kercher'. What nonsense! How did convicting two innocent people help the memory of Meredith Kercher, the friend and flatmate of one of them? Meredith was murdered by Rudy Guede alone, as the Appeal report clearly concludes; paradoxically, Meredith's family lawyer Francesco Maresca's pursuit of the official prosecution line has contributed to the shortening of the sentence against Rudy Guede, and thereby defiled the memory of the murdered girl, as well as putting others at risk once the sole murderer is released early, as he will be. And if there is any doubt that Guede acted alone, how come the Kercher's lawyer, has (along with the Public Prosecutor) consistently opposed testing the DNA in semen on the cushion on which Meredith's body lay? Doesn't seem fair that, even to Guede who on occasion has spoken of another man being present at the crime scene.

  • 22 February 2012 at 12:46pm
    outofdate says:
    The 'obscured memory' stuck in my craw as well. Really this victim rights crap is all very well in the Sun, but any civilised person must understand that the victim is the sole reason the law exists in the first place. Why else would you need it? So it's strictly speaking barbaric to insist that the victim ought on top of that to have some kind of say in the way the law is applied -- to achieve 'closure' or whatever idiotic reasons are being cited -- let alone beyond due process and to the point of restricting the right of a woman who by all accounts was herself the victim of a miscarriage of justice to do whatever she damn well likes.

    The victim's family are always baying for the blood of the first suspect who comes along. No doubt that’s understandable and has something to do with grief, but that's precisely why civilised societies frown on private revenge, the idea being that it doesn't do the families any good either if they're allowed to behave so badly. The law 'steps in'.

    The point of the OJ Simpson case, which has nothing whatever to do with this one, was that he was probably guilty but the morons at the LAPD probably fiddled the evidence just to be on the safe side, so of course he had to be acquitted. Is that difficult to understand? He seems to have lost every other case it was possible to bring afterwards and didn’t benefit from the book, so that’s such justice as can be done once the course of justice has been perverted, and the best worst outcome under the circumstances.

  • 23 February 2012 at 3:21am
    George Hoffman says:
    The O.J. Simpson trial was about jury nullification, race relations in the United States, and of course, the most under-reported crime in America. the epidemic of domestic violence against women. But the Amanda Knox trial was more a cautionary tale, an updated, sexy portrait of Isabel Archer, who goes aboard to confront her fate, and falls prey to the cultural decadence beneath the alluring facade of Old World charm.
    Or from the European perspective, a pretty young American woman turns out to be just another another ugly American who gets her comeuppance for murder.For there were subtle undercurrents of anti-Americanism and schadenfruede during the trial.
    But with Knox's acquittal and reversal of fortune, I now detect in Lidija Hass's tone of disapproval for the whole sordid affair that schadenfreude interruptus would be a better phrase.
    What we all could agree upon, perhaps a gesture of hands across the water, is the ethos of America as the land of hustlers out to make a quick buck. It is the defining characteristic of both O.J. Simpson and Amanda Knox. Americans call it the pursuit of happiness. And we have been pursuing it ever since we fled the Old Country and landed at Plymouth Rock. For that we are certainly guilty.

    • 23 February 2012 at 11:54am
      outofdate says: @ George Hoffman
      Or that. But pretend you're Amanda Knox for a moment. Years of your undeniably cute young life spent in a prison cell, massive legal bills for having had the misfortune of sharing a flat with a murder victim, vilified and frankly drooled over by millions worldwide, George 'W' Bush paid however much for a ghost-written mass-murder apologia: why the hell shouldn't she?

  • 23 February 2012 at 6:55am
    ninnifor says:
    That the Italian legal system has its shortcomings is manifest in this farcical travesty of justice whether the victim be the unfortunate Amanda Know or the even more unfortunate Meredith Kercher. What is manifest in these latest comments is that the American pursuit of happiness has become a quest of financial gain or 'How much can I wring out of this?" Spare me the tears and the hand-wringing - I shall certainly not be contributing to Ms Knox's introits.

  • 26 February 2012 at 7:39am
    Michael Taylor says:
    Just imagine how different the comment would be, if the victim had been American, the murder had occurred in a US university town and the accused were all foreigners.
    The characterisation of the Italian police as 'pathological' seems way over the top. They were doing their job. I can see few things to be glad about in this sorry affair but one of them is that Knox was freed on appeal because the evidence was not strong enough against her. That's a sign of a functional judicial system.
    I won't be buying or reading her book. She tried to implicate an innocent man, the bar owner.
    Haas's throwaway reference to the Kerchners seems to have hit some raw nerves. The second positive is the dignified and restrained way in which they have behaved. If they are not satisfied as many Americans are that an African has taken the rap for this, they have followed the trial closely and have a right to their opinion.

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